Author: Roberto Bolano
Released: 1998
Genre: Drama

Don’t be put off by the poetry, or that all the characters are writers (even though writers are, admittedly, tough people to spend time with)—The Savage Detectives is a sad-beautiful novel about losing.

Anyone walking upright knows what it's like to grow old, to experience loss. The massive cast that fills the pages of this novel with their voices, they were all young once. They cared about something. They cared about art. As they age—the novel spans decades—they come to understand how hard it is to hold on to the things you care about, how you lose everything by degrees.

No writer has done a better job of expressing the utter silliness of art in the face of its magnificent power. Art is a joke. Art is all that matters. Life is a joke. Life is all that matters. That’s one possible summary of Bolano’s novel. Likely you’ll have another.

Fun Fact: Most of the characters in The Savage Detectives are based on Bolano and his real-life friends. Arturo Belano, for instance, is Bolano himself, and Ulises Lima is his good friend Mario Santiago, who was killed in 1998.